Children’s literature exists on many levels. It can be categorized according to the age of the children in the target group, ranging from children that cannot read by themselves to adolescents. In this article, the term ‘children’s literature’ applies to every level. In the old days, Thai children did not have particular tales to read or listen to individually, but simply read or listened to tales together with adults. This was certainly true of most lullabies, the content of which was not composed for children; the latter merely listened or responded to the rhythm while the adults listened to the story. The tales are the same. Although the main characters are children, the story may contain cruelty, such as in the story of The Pla Boo Thong (The Golden Fish), in which the father kills the mother and the step-mother kills the step-daughter. With developments in modern education, adults are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of children’s literature in stimulating children’s mental and emotional growth; moreover, it helps to cultivate the thought processes and imagination of young children. The popularity of the bestselling series The Adventures of Harry Potter all around the world, including Thailand, has prompted Thai writers to revive folktales and traditional literary works, to retell them and re-create them in different literary forms and content in order to attract the attention of the younger generation. There are four ways to create contemporary children’s literature based on traditional sources. The first method involves the re-creation of the story with new imaginative touches. The second involves the creation of a new story line with certain characters from old
tales. The third involves a parody of certain literary conventions and motifs. The fourth involves the transformation of traditional literature into picture-book form or comics. The details will be analyzed below.
The Re-creation of the Story with New Imaginative Touches From time to time, many works of traditional literature are re-worked again and again. The original story may become exaggerated in the process or undergo a radical change; for example, the Ramakian has many parts that are different from the original Ramayana. Some writers have retold the Ramakian for children by exaggerating certain aspects of the old story in order to make it more colourful and more exciting, The Adventure of Macchanu by Kitakal being one example. Macchanu is the son of Hanuman and Supanmaccha. During the construction of the road to Longa, Hanuman takes up with a mermaid who gives birth to Macchanu on the seashore after Hanuman has abandoned her. The son, who is born as a monkey with the tail of a fish, is later taken in by Mayarab, the king of the sea, who adopts him as his stepson. When Mayarab puts Rama to sleep with a magic spell and carries him off to the depths of the sea, Hanuman comes to the rescue. Hanuman meets Macchanu and after fighting each other to a standstill, he realizes that Macchanu is in fact his very own son. After that, Hanuman is able to slay Mayarab and save Rama’s life. He allows Waiwik, the son of the former king, to assume the vacant throne, with Macchanu as the Prince Regent.